Hypothyroidism is treated with medications to replace the thyroid hormones not being produced in the body. This treatment is supervised by an endocrinologist and requires a lifelong commitment to treatment and monitoring of hormone levels. In certain specific cases, hormone treatment is not the preferred treatment, usually because the underlying cause of the hypothyroidism is treatable and addressing that should restore normal thyroid function and resolve the problem.
Hypothyroidism is a relatively common condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. This can be a result of damage to the gland, including iatrogenic damage like removal of the gland to treat a suspected cancer. It can also be caused by malfunction in related endocrine glands like the pituitary gland. When patients have hypothyroidism, the metabolism is altered and the patient can develop a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, puffiness around the face, and depression.
The first step in hypothyroid treatment is testing to determine the level of thyroid hormones in the body currently and to explore the cause, if it is not known. This information is used as a baseline to start the patient on replacement hormones. As the patient takes medications, periodic tests are run to check hormone levels and the dosages are adjusted as needed. The ultimate goal is to stabilize the hormone levels and keep the patient comfortable.
A cause like inflammation or malfunction in another gland can also be treated. For example, some women develop postpartum hypothyroidism, a condition that often resolves on its own. Hormone replacement therapy can replace the function of the gland temporarily while the patient is treated for the condition causing a decrease in hormone production. If the treatment is successful, the patient can be taken off the medications and will not need additional monitoring.
It is important to treat hypothyroidism and to remain consistent with treatment, as patients can experience complications related to thyroid malfunction. Receiving conscientious medical care will help patients identify any problems in the early stages so interventions can be provided in a timely fashion. In addition to an endocrinologist, or hormone specialist, the patient may also see care providers like oncologists to follow up on cancers of the thyroid. Patients with known hormone problems should report any unusual symptoms they experience to their doctors to see if additional treatment or follow-up is needed.